Burriss: Does art really imitate life?

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We often hear about how art imitates life, and how form follows function. And that's certainly true if we look at a few literary and popular icons and their connections with real-world events.

On Nov. 14, 1854, for example, William Howard Russell, sometimes considered the first war correspondent, reported the charge of the Light Brigade for The Times of London. This story detailed the bungled orders that led to a cavalry charge by a brigade of British soldiers during the Crimean war, a charge that led to some 578 casualties out of 673 soldiers.

The event and news story would become the basis for one of the most popular poems in literature, Alfred, Lord Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade. The poem has enjoyed much celebrity, and was the title given to at least two feature films, one in 1936 and the other in 1968.
So here we have an actual event, followed by a news story, subsequently followed by a poem.

Also on November 14, this time in 1890, reporter Elizabeth Cochran, perhaps better known as Nellie Bly, began her "Around the World in 80 Days" trip for the New York World. Bly's real-world event was inspired by the Jules Verne novel of the same name, and was loosely the subject of a hit movie in 1956, which won a number of Academy and Golden Globe awards.

In this case we have a fictitious event inspiring a real-life version, which subsequently inspired a comedy feature film.
On Nov. 10, 1975, the ore freighter Edmund Fitzgerald sank in Lake Superior, with a loss of all 29 crew members. The tragedy inspired the 1976 Gordon Lightfoot song, "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," and later led to a number of cable television specials.

So here we have a real event leading to a song leading to a television program.

We sometimes hear complaints today about the blurring of the line between reality and fiction. Well, as was said many years ago, there's nothing new under the sun, and there probably won't ever be.

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